August 22, 2008

Rex B. Hamilton celebrates the life of U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones

Greetings, Fellow Haunters:

Stephanie Tubbs Jones was the U.S. House representative for the east side of Cleveland and many eastern suburbs of Cuyahoga County, the county that contains the city of Cleveland. She was first elected to her seat in 1998.

Many of us in the land of Cleave learned, with deep regret, of her passing this Wednesday evening due to an inoperable brain aneurism. Emergency workers took Tubbs Jones to the place of my birth, Huron Road Hospital in the city of East Cleveland. There was little that Cleveland Clinic doctors could do to heal the damage from this death blow. She will be dearly missed.

She wasn’t my representative in Congress - the wild and crazy Dennis Kucinich has one of his district offices right at the end of my block here in the city of Lakewood. But Tubbs Jones certainly represented my values. She was a tall, strong woman with one of the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen. She was a dynamo of enthusiasm, commitment, hope and caring all her life.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones visited Bloodview Haunted House in Broadview Heights, Ohio on Saturday, the 26th of September, 1992. I seem to recall that Bloodview was doing some sort of special activity/promotion that evening but I cannot remember the specific reason. At the time, Tubbs Jones was the elected Prosecutor for Cuyahoga County. I remember asking myself “why would a person elected to oversee the justice system for 1.5 million citizens travel all the way to the lily-white, sparsely-populated, bedroom community of Broadview Heights?” Bloodview was about as far away from her office in the downtown Justice Center as one can get without crossing the county line. And on a Saturday night? When you’re a very visible public official, you don’t get much personal time. Why would you spend it at a haunted house when it’s not even October yet?

But there she was, dressed in all black, standing right outside Bloodview’s customer entrance. Tubbs Jones was known for being a natty dresser, so I appreciated that she chose the appropriate color for her visit to a haunted attraction.

I was working just inside the front door, which leads into a quick succession of black, right-angled hallways and then into the first scene. The front door at Bloodview is kept propped open throughout the performance. A ticket taker stands in the doorway. That night I was one of the Dark Disciples of the Red Redemption. For those of you who were never members of The Legion of Terror, Bloodview’s acting troupe, that means that I was dressed from head to toe in all black clothing and had covered my face, hair and hands with lots of black liquid make-up. Customers waiting to enter Bloodview’s front door stand under a bright spotlight. Just inside the door were deep shadows. With a coal-black wall behind me, black costume and black make-up, I could stand just three or four feet inside the door and be Mr. Invisible to the waiting customers, only about six feet away.

Tubbs-Jones stood off to the side of the waiting line of customers. She grinned and softly giggled and made small talk with the groups of customers as they entered, about 45 seconds apart. Mostly, she just silently grinned at the customers as they slowly trudged by her on the way to the front door. I was able to watch her for several minutes - a lifetime in the world of haunted-house acting. She was enjoying people watching - much like we enjoy gawking at the screaming riders on a roller coaster train that might suddenly flash by us at the amusement park.

After only a few minutes, we ran out of line. (Late-September evenings produce crowds, but sometimes small, spotty ones.) Tubbs-Jones stood for a moment looking at the doorway (and invisible me about 10 feet away from her) and then turned and walked off in the direction of the haunt’s ticket booth-police officer-paramedic area. I figured that she wasn’t going to enter the haunt all by herself. So I strode into the haunt in the hope that I could catch up to the final group of customers and give them another scare.

But I heard one of those strange, quiet, scuffling-along-the-walls sounds behind me. So I turned around and quickly made my way back toward the front door. But before I could get there I encountered Tubbs Jones in a blackened hallway about 6 feet long. She had her hands out in front of her, just like we all do when walking while blind. My eyes were very adjusted to the dark. I could see her - she couldn’t see me. Just the way we rehearse it.

My mind played a two-second game of “Holy jumping catfish, what the hell do I do now?” and I decided to go for the subdued angle. Very gently I took one of her outstretched hands in my right hand, moved right alongside her and slowly, menacingly whispered in her ear, “I’m going to show you _all_ the wrong places to go and introduce you to _all_ the wrong people.” I very slowly, very gently led her along the pitch-black, z-shaped hallways and let go of her hand just before she entered the large, well-lit first scene.

She was a nervous person that night, but I have to credit her bravery. She went through by herself. Tenderly holding her hand, I could feel how tense she was. She walked awkwardly and stiffly beside me. Her breathing was short and sharp. No words passed her lips. She barely tolerated my holding her hand. I could tell that she was quite relieved when I let it go. I never saw her again.

I wrote her a thank-you letter on October 5, 1992. I’ll leave you with that letter’s final graph:

“We members of The Legion of Terror are never paid for our efforts. Our reward is having a fun time with our fellow actors and actresses and the opportunity of raising money for charity. We appreciate the 26,000 or so customers who pass through our doors. We also value the support of our public officials. Thank you for your support.”

Very truly yours,

Rex B. Hamilton

13939 Clifton Boulevard
Lakewood, Ohio 44107-1462